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Anyone, anywhere in the world can launch a Startup Grind chapter. But many close within months of launching. The key is to get your monthly event to become financially sustainable, says new Startup Grind Cape Town director Sandras Phiri.
“The thing to consider is why are you doing it? If you’re doing it just to make money, you’re going to be super frustrated, you’re going to quit… if you’re doing it to help the community, to help entrepreneurs you’re more likely to succeed,” says Phiri, who takes over from current Cape Town chapter director Guillaume De Smedt next month.
Zambian-born Phiri has been running the Startup Grind Lusaka chapter for over two years now and hasn’t missed a single month running an event there. He has also been running Startup Grind Johannesburg since January.
‘A lot of Startup Grind events close, because people don’t have a sustainable financial model, or they don’t charge the right prices, or have a sponsor’
A critical part of running a sustainable Startup Grind chapter is to find sponsors. He says a lot of chapter heads think it is easy to run a Startup Grind chapter, but fail to consider the work involved in finding and convincing speakers to present at events and in getting sponsors on board.
“A lot of people struggle, (the events) close, because they don’t have a sustainable financial model, or they don’t charge the right prices, or they don’t have a sponsor who helps them,” he says.
Before starting a chapter he says organisers should arrange three events in advance and get a venue that is sponsored and put together a good video that can help promote the event.
Then one should be consistent, to ensure that it becomes one of the main events in one’s city. Startup Grind Lusaka is even on television in Zambia — broadcast on a satellite television, he adds.
‘Cape Town event to be more inclusive’
Asked by Ventureburn on whether those attending Startup Grind Cape Town events can expect anything different when he takes over, Phiri said he aims to get the event to be “more inclusive”.
He conceded that Startup Grind Cape Town events had “too little diversity in terms of race”, with the overwhelming majority of guests and most of the speakers being white.
However he said he plans to bring in more black entrepreneurs, and has already made moves to do so by engaging with Facebook groups that focus on black entrepreneurs.
In addition he said he would consider introducing discounted ticket prices so that more black entrepreneurs can afford to attend too.
The Zambian-born entrepreneur studied computer science at Zambia at the Copperbelt University and has worked for a mobile payments firm, a bank, unit trust company and insurance firm.
He later moved to Cape Town just over 10 years ago where he did an MBA at UCT Graduate School of Business before quitting his job in 2013 to run his mentoring company, Africa Trust Academy, full time.
Through the academy, which he founded with his wife in 2009, Phiri has worked in Zambia, South Africa and Malawi and served over 20 corporates. His wife is the chief marketing officer for Zoona.
He then went on a mentorship programme in Bali where his mentor Rodger Hamilton, who is the chapter director for Startup Grind Bali, encouraged him to start a Startup Grind chapter in Zambia.
He said when choosing who will speak at each event he looks for speakers that can both educate and inspire entrepreneurs.
“So we look for success stories — so either a big name, when you mention the entrepreneur people say ‘Yes I know that person’ or a big company, organisation or brand… or something very innovative,” he said.
Massive Cape party planned
While De Smedt, who is also a global community director at Startup Grind, will host his final Startup Grind Cape Town event on 30 August (the last of 50 such events he has hosted), he will continue to run Startup Grind Pretoria events.
He told Ventureburn that he plans to get between 250 and 300 people to attend the 30 August event which will feature a discussion between De Smedt and internet entrepreneur and Takealot co-CEO Willem van Biljon and will be hosted by Standard Bank and PayFast. As of last Friday 286 free tickets had been issued.
Sign up for the 30 August event here
*For more on how to launch your own Startup Grind Chapter visit https://www.startupgrind.com/start/
*UPDATE (16/08/2017): Free tickets to the Startup Grind Cape Town event on 30 August are now sold out. De Smedt informed Ventureburn that those who apply to attend will be placed on a waiting list.